How to grow calendulas

How to grow calendula

Calendula marigolds, also known as pot marigolds, are an old cottage garden favourite, often used as a companion plant to help attract pollinating insects. Calendula flowers from June to September from a spring sowing, or from May to July from an autumn sowing. Calendula flowers are edible and the petals make an attractively colourful garnish to salads and other dishes. They are also said to also have healing properties – calendula has been used to treat skin ailments such as rashes, wounds and sores, and has also been used to reduce pain and inflammation. Calendula petals can be harvested and used fresh or dry in tea, and can also be used to make a calendula balm.

A hardy annual, calendula tolerates some frost and is therefore easy to grow.

How to grow calendula

Calendula can be sown direct where plants are to flower and need very little attention. Simply scatter seed on prepared ground in spring and ensure the soil remains moist. Deadhead spent blooms in summer or allow the flowers to develop seeds for resowing the following spring.

Where to grow calendula

Calendula growing as part of a border display

Calendula works well as a bedding annual at the front of a border display, and in pots. In the greenhouse and vegetable patch, grow calendula among your tomatoes, beans and other crops to attract pollinating insects.

How to plant calendula

Planting pot-grown calendula plants in a pot

Pot marigold is best grown from seed and sown where it is to flower. Sow the seed thinly in patches or rows, 1cm deep, and cover lightly. Thin seedlings to 10-15cm apart.

You can also sow calendula in pots or buy potted calendula plants to plant out later. These can be used in bedding and container displays.

How to care for calendula

Pot marigolds require very little care. Water in dry conditions and feed fortnightly with a high potash liquid fertiliser, such as a tomato feed, to keep plants producing flowers. Deadhead spent blooms to further encourage the production of flowers but bear in mind that calendula seeds can be saved to sow the following year, so it’s beneficial to leave some seeds to develop at the end of the season.

How to propagate calendula

If left, pot marigold tends to seed itself. Avoid hoeing the ground and you should find new pot marigold plants around the original, the following year. However, you can also collect and store seed to sow the following spring. Ensure you allow the seedheads to fully develop on the plant before collecting them (they will turn brown and papery as they mature). Remove them from the plant and lay them on a sheet of paper indoors, to dry for a few days. Once dry, separate the seeds from the seedhead and place them in a clean, labelled envelope. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place such as the fridge, and simply sow them the following year where you want them to flower.

How to make calendula balm

How to make a calendula balm

Calendula cream is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. It’s great for soothing mild sunburn, minor skin rashes and itchy skin, and can help heal minor cuts and grazes.

If you’ve not used a certain herbal remedy before, check whether you’re allergic by applying some to the inside of your arm. If you have no reaction after 24 hours, you can assume it’s safe to apply.

You will need:

  • Fresh calendula flowers
  • Emulsifying ointment
  • Glycerol
  • Water
  • Bowl to fit on top of the saucepan
  • Small saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Small palette knife
  • Piece of muslin or jelly bag
  • Glass jar or other container with a fitting lid, plus a label
  • Pair of strong rubber gloves

Pick calendula flowers

Pick pot marigold flowers when fully open but not fading. Wash under cold, running water and pat dry with a paper towel. Melt the emulsifying ointment in a china bowl over a pan of boiling water – take great care as the ointment will get extremely hot. Once it’s melted, add the glycerol and water. This makes it solidify slightly. Stir until re-melted.

Pick pot marigold flowers

Add calendula flowers to the mixture

Add the calendula flowers, stir well and simmer for three hours. Stir from time to time during this period and check the water in the saucepan doesn’t boil dry.

Add the flowers and stir well

Strain the calendula mixture

Strain the mixture through a jelly bag into a bowl. Once strained, stir the molten cream constantly as it cools to prevent it from separating.

Strain the mixture

Transfer the calendula balm into a jar

Calendula balm in a jar

When set, use a small palette knife to transfer the mixture into a glass jar. Label the jar and store it in the fridge or a cold larder. Use within two months.

Calendula varieties to grow

Pot marigold, Calendula

Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’

Pot marigolds bear single or double flowers, mostly in shades of yellow and orange, through summer.

Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’ bears deep orange flowers with crimson centres and backs. A favourite for cutting. H x S: 45cm x 30cm

Calendula officinalis ‘Calexis Yellow’ bears double, spiky flowers of bright yellow. An orange variety is also available. H x S: 40cm x 30cm

Calendula officinalis ‘Snow Princess’ is creamy white, the palest calendula available. H x S: 40cm x 30cm

Calendula officinalis ‘Touch of Red Buff’ – an unusual and contemporary beige-pink with darker brown petal tips, ideal for cutting. H x S: 60cm x 30cm

Calendula ‘Power Daisy Yellow’ is a new type of calendula. It has a low growing, bushy habit and flowers prolifically over a long period through summer and into autumn, with no need to deadhead. H x S: 40cm x 40cm



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